New Publication at the Open Journal of Astrophysics!

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , on December 9, 2019 by telescoper

We have published yet another new paper at The Open Journal of Astrophysics!

Here is a grab of the overlay:

The authors are Enrico Bellini (Oxford, UK), Ludovic van Waerbeke (University of British Columbia, Canada), Shahab Joudaki (Oxford) and David Alonso (Cardiff)

You can find the accepted version on the arXiv here. This is another one for the  `Cosmology and Nongalactic Astrophysics’ section, which is proving rather popular.

We would be very happy to get more submissions from other areas, especially Stellar and Planetary astrophysics. Hint! Hint!


P.S. Just a reminder that we now have an Open Journal of Astrophysics Facebook page where you can follow updates from the Journal should you so wish..

Arrival of Storm Atiyah

Posted in Biographical, Cardiff with tags , , on December 8, 2019 by telescoper

I was a bit alarmed when I saw this weather forecast map on Friday. At first I thought it meant that Ireland was about to be swallowed by a black hole but when I realised it was Storm Atiyah I had the lesser but still significant concern that my flight home from Cardiff would be disrupted.

As it happened the flight was on time, though the blustery winds at Dublin Airport ahead of the storm made for a more than slightly bumpy landing.

I was in one of these:

It’s a Bombardier Dash-8 Q400 operated by FlyBe. I had a window seat on the right hand side so had a good view as we bobbled around on the way in to land. The wings being above the level of the cabin and my seat being next to the starboard engine I could see the right undercarriage come down as we approached. We weren’t quite level when we reached the runway though and I felt and heard the left set of wheels touch down while the ones on the right I could see were still in the air. I could also see weren’t moving exactly parallel to the runway but slightly crosswise. We travelled for quite a few seconds on one set of wheels before we had both feet on the ground, so to speak. During that time I thought we might go off the side of the runway. When the right set of wheels did touch down, however, causing a big splash of water, only a slight correction was needed to point us in the right direction and all was well.

Pilots are if course trained to cope with windy conditions and I’m sure everything was always under control but I bet pilots do have to concentrate hard on such occasions.

Good News for Quantum Computing in Ireland (and Maynooth)!

Posted in Maynooth, The Universe and Stuff with tags , , , , , , on December 8, 2019 by telescoper

I am sitting in Cardiff Airport waiting for my flight back to Dublin so I thought I’d pass on some good news that arrived last night.

Yesterday, Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation, Heather Humphreys, TD, together with Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection, Regina Doherty, TD, announced that 16 innovative projects have been successful under the second round of the Disruptive Technologies Innovation Fund administered by Enterprise Ireland. The projects will share €65 million out to 2022.

Graphic purporting to represent Quantum Computing

One of the projects selected for funding is called Quantum Computing in Ireland: A Software Platform for Multiple Qubit Technologies. To be eligible for this kind of funding, projects must involve businesses and this particular project includes IBM Ireland Ltd, MasterCard Ireland, Rockley Photonics and Equal 1 Laboratories, the latter two being SMEs based in the Dublin area. The project also involves the Tyndall National Institute (Cork); University College Dublin; and Maynooth University (full name: National University of Ireland, Maynooth). This is the first large collaboration in Ireland in this area.

The Maynooth involvement comes via the Department of Theoretical Physics, in the form of Dr Jiri Vala, so congratulations to him. I’m delighted that all the hard work that went into preparing and presenting this bid has paid off.

Maynooth will receive a relatively small (but still very welcome) slice of the financial cake (~€600k) but it’s nevertheless an important strategic success. In a difficult funding climate it is important for a small Department to get involved in collaborations, both nationally and internationally, and also to make the most of any opportunities that present themselves. That is not to say that we plan to neglect research in basic science, but this we have to strike a balance that allows both the flourish.

There’s another piece of good news for Quantum Computing in Ireland to report on top of this. The 2nd European Quantum Technologies Conference (EQTC 2020) will take place in late Noember next year in Dublin. The website is here.

Postal Voting Par Avion

Posted in Biographical, Cardiff, Politics on December 7, 2019 by telescoper

After giving the matter much thought, some weeks ago I decided to apply for a postal vote so I could vote in the general election in the constituency of Cardiff West where I still (for the time being) have a house. I couldn’t vote in person owing to work commitments in Ireland on Thursday 12th December. Teaching term doesn’t end in Maynooth until 20th.

The postal ballot paper was sent to my address in Cardiff because I wasn’t confident in the post between the UK and Ireland. (It takes over a month for my copy of Physics World to reach Ireland. Last night I flew from Dublin to complete it and this morning I put it in the mail, so it should arrive in time to be counted.

In case you’re interested, I voted for Kevin Brennan (Welsh Labour).

I fear this will turn out to be a futile gesture, and that this election will put liar and charlatan Boris Johnson in Downing Street with a significant majority. The prospect of a government headed by this creature appals me, as does the thought that so many people don’t care that he’s so demonstrably dishonest and untrustworthy. As far as I see it, anyone who votes for the modern Conservative Party must be either a simpleton or a sociopath. Or possibly both.

Update: relevant advice from today’s Financial Times:

(It’s actually about dealing with cold callers, but is in my opinion more widely applicable..)

How Ireland Made Einstein Famous

Posted in History, Talks and Reviews, The Universe and Stuff with tags , on December 6, 2019 by telescoper

Before I depart for the weekend I thought I’d mention that I’m giving a talk on Monday evening (9th December) at 8pm in the Physics Building at Trinity College Dublin. The talk is followed by a reception in the Lombard Inn. Part of the advert is shown above but you can read more details at the Astronomy Ireland website.

If you’re around in Dublin on Monday then maybe I’ll see you there!

The Funeral of Lorentz

Posted in History, The Universe and Stuff with tags , , on December 6, 2019 by telescoper

In a post a couple of days ago I mentioned the Dutch physicist Hendrik Lorentz, whose work helped establish the foundations of the theory of special relativity.

Hendrik Lorentz (1853-1928)

Doing a quick google about Lorentz I came across this remarkable silent footage of his funeral in 1928 in the town of Haarlem in the Netherlands.

from the Wikipedia page of Lorentz:

The funeral took place at Haarlem at noon on Friday, February 10. At the stroke of twelve the State telegraph and telephone services of Holland were suspended for three minutes as a revered tribute to the greatest man the Netherlands has produced in our time. It was attended by many colleagues and distinguished physicists from foreign countries. The President, Sir Ernest Rutherford, represented the Royal Society and made an appreciative oration by the graveside.

The footage of the funeral procession shows a lead carriage followed by ten mourners, followed by a carriage with the coffin, followed in turn by at least four more carriages, passing by a crowd at the Grote Markt, Haarlem from the Zijlstraat to the Smedestraat, and then back again through the Grote Houtstraat towards the Barteljorisstraat, on the way to the “Algemene Begraafplaats” at the Kleverlaan (northern Haarlem cemetery).
Einstein later gave a eulogy at a memorial service at Leiden University.

It was clearly a very grand affair which demonstrates high regard in which Lorentz was held not only by physicists but by the wider public.


And the Band played Waltzing Matilda

Posted in Music with tags , on December 5, 2019 by telescoper

I heard this moving anti-war song performed by Liam Clancy on the radio yesterday on the 10th anniversary of his death and thought I’d share it here.